2008.6.1 – Boise, ID
So, in the words of Dane Cook, we’re gonna Tarantino this thing. That is, we’re gonna start and the end, and then do the flashback sequence to see how exactly it was that I ended sprinting for show and for dough, yet again. So here’s the grand finale, that we are going to flashback and the fast-forward to get to: 400m to go (or, more appropriately, the 0.1miles that span the distance from the 13mile marker to the finish), I can hear the heavy breathing and footsteps of Ben Hoffman behind me. On weary legs, I pull out my best impersonation of the Simon Whitfield 6th gear. Coming into the chute, I no longer hear footsteps behind me, and out of the corner of my eye, I can see that I’m all alone in the reflection of the shop windows. The clock up top reads 4:01: 44 as the announcer calls me through the chute in 5th place, the final spot that gets a paycheck and gets to stand up in front of the crowd and smile for cameras, I wonder why it is that I always seem to have to work so hard for these things. Oh yeah, I remember, I keep forgetting how to swim…
And so it is that we find ourselves at the start of this adventure. Waiting for the cannon in the not-even-close-to-60F water (no matter what the race director might have claimed) of the Lucky Peak Reservoir, I remember laughing about how there always seems to be a magical current that pushes the field closer and closer to the first buoy. On the take your mark signal, about half the field started swimming (I guess that was their version of taking their marks), and after a brief “WTF?!” that was punctuated by the cannon sounding, so did I. We were swimming out into a strong headwind which was really kicking up the lake into a lot of chop. It’s the roughest swim I’ve done in recent memory, and with my swim seeming to be in hibernation this year, it was another problem I didn’t need. I couldn’t see much as every time I tried to sight, I ended up with a face full of water. It also seemed to serve the especially nice function of smashing me backwards from the pack that I could barely see ahead of me. The pack, that is, that I keep claiming in between races in the pack that I *should* be swimming, and the same pack that I seem currently incapable of making.
The swim seemed endless, both because it was a slugfest with the wind and waves, and also because it was especially long, either in distance or duration or both. I finally exited the water in 29:14, which is pretty bad, but quite as bad as it might have seemed with the leader exiting in 25:59. After a relatively slow transition on more than relatively numb feet, I headed out onto the ripping descent from the top of the dam that started our 56 mile journey. From there, it was a steady bit of fast flat before climbing back up to the main area of the course out by the airport. My legs were currently quite unhappy about the whole state of affairs, having just been subjected to this exact same scenario less than seven days ago. With the one hour time loss, I was actually at 6 days, 19 hours (or so) from crossing the finish line at Shawnigan Lake. And here I was, punishing myself again. As Coach Joel said, “what’s the worse that can happen? You suffer.” And suffer I did. Fortunately, that same wind that I had been cursing during the swim was now escorting me to the top of this hill. My wattage wasn’t stellar, but I was rolling, and rolling extra fast, I might add, on a brand new, one-of-a-kind Zipp 1080 clincher front wheel. Thanks, Dave!
The first half of the course was the more up and down portion, and it also happened to be on the worse pavement. This seemed to compound the fatigue in my legs. But then, as we turned onto the sheltered, better-paved back half of the course, my legs must have realized that this ordeal wasn’t going to end early, so the best course of action was clearly to get to the finish line faster. And so, with their cooperation, I began to negative split the ride. My power came up, my speed went up, and I was closing in fast. As I rolled into T2, I’d moved up from about just barely being in the top-20 to being tied for fourth overall with Joe Gambles from Australia.
After another less than stellar transition (I need to practice. Transitions and swimming, that’s all I should do for the next month), I headed out onto the run, chasing (or rather getting dropped) by Joe, who was clearly a man on a mission (a mission that took him to 3rd overall and within 10 seconds of 2nd). I felt surprisingly good on the run, clipping off steady miles and feeling quite pleased that my legs had decided to cooperate. Coming through the turnaround to start the second lap, Ben Hoffman (of the good old USA) had just passed me. The announcer shouted out our names and added this little bit of very important information “…and these two guys are battling it out for the last money position.” Not wanting to see this trip turn into an expensive lesson on why it’s a bad idea to race back-to-back halves, I made a deal with my body (who clearly must have thought my brain was the devil by now) to see how much was left in the tank. And then, I got what I guess you could call the Ironman wind. Much like a second wind, this is that rather blessed feeling where racing for four hours seems short. I felt better. And I upped the pace. And I didn’t feel any worse. Well, that’s not entirely true, my legs did hurt more, but overall, everything seemed to be running fine. It only took me three hours and twenty minutes to really get warmed up, that’s all. And then suddenly, instead of moving forward, Hoffman seemed to be moving backwards. And, in a rather rare occurrence in long course racing, I passed the guy who had passed me only 3 miles earlier. But I wasn’t going to get rid of him. I could hear his footsteps right behind me. And I could hear him breathing – breathing hard. I know from all the group training that we do that being the man in front has it’s advantages. Because the guy behind you can’t hear your breathing. He couldn’t hear my steady breaths, coming in and out much easier than his seemed to be. As we came into two miles to go, and then a mile to go, basically in lock step, I thought to myself “I will outkick you. It will hurt. Nobody likes to sprint. But I’m going to do it. And I’m going to win it.” And so, as we cross the “13 MILES” marker, I sprint, and the footsteps behind me fade away. And just like that, we’re back at the beginning. Or the end. Same thing I guess.
Even as my streak of fastest bike splits (2nd fastest to Chris Lieto) and podium finishes (5th) for the year came to an end, I was pretty happy to cross the finish line within seconds of my time from last week. One thing I was a bit bummed about, and one streak that does seem to want to persist, is this 4:00-plus finishing time streak. Last week, the run course was probably closer to 22km, and this week the bike course was pretty much 57mi. And even as much as I might claim I don’t want the free time (and that I can break the mark on any course where anyone else can), I keep knocking into this glass ceiling. I need to have a sit down with Coach Joel. We need to find a bigger hammer, because I’m ready to smash through it.